World Facts

Which Major Bodies of Water Surround Africa?

The Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean all border Africa.

Africa is the second-largest continent in the world by size and population, with an area of approximately 11.73 million sq mi and an estimated population of 1.275 billion. The continent consists of 54 sovereign countries, 16 of which are landlocked, nine dependent territories, and two de facto countries that have limited or no international recognition.

The equator runs through Africa, from Gabon in the west to Somalia in the east, and nearly splits the continent into two equal parts. Africa is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Red Sea to the northeast, Indian Ocean to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge off the southern coast of South Africa.

Africa’s longest coastline is located along the Atlantic, while its shortest is located on the Red Sea. Lake Victoria, which is located within Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania is the world's third-largest lake by area, while Lake Tanganyika, which is located within Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Zambia, is the third-largest by volume, after the Caspian Sea and Lake Superior.

Atlantic Ocean

27 countries in Africa border the Atlantic Ocean:

  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Ivory Coast
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Mauritania
  • Morocco
  • Namibia 
  • Nigeria
  • Republic of the Congo
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa
  • Togo
  • Tunisia

The Atlantic is the gateway to the Americas and was a popular slave route to the Americas between the 17th and 19th centuries. Many typhoons and hurricanes that reach the Caribbean and the eastern coast of the United States form off the Atlantic coast of Africa due to the warm air of the Sahara desert.

Indian Ocean

13 African countries border the Indian Ocean:

  • Comoros
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • Kenya
  • Madagascar
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Seychelles
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania

Madagascar, Somalia, and Mozambique have the longest coastlines along the Indian Ocean. The ocean is the gateway to the east, as it connects Africa with Asia. For example, China is developing harbors along the east coast of Africa as part of the China Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to promote trade. However, the Indian Ocean has also provided a route to transport illegal goods, including drugs and hunting trophies, to Southeast Asia. Island countries of Africa located in the Indian Ocean include Madagascar, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Comoros.

Red Sea

The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean located off the northeast corner of Africa. The sea borders:

  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • Djibouti
  • Sudan

The Red Sea is connected to the Indian Ocean through the Bāb al-Mandab Strait in the Gulf of Aden. The Red Sea is also connected to the Mediterranean Sea by the Suez Canal. In early 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia entered a war over a territorial dispute caused by Ethiopia's attempt to establish a route to the Red Sea.

Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea is bordered by:

  • Algeria
  • Egypt
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia

The Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar. The Mediterranean is a popular and shorter route between Africa and Europe, and has also historically been used by immigrants and human traffickers to reach Europe. The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are located in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean is also connected to the Red Sea by the Suez Canal.

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